Books: The Butterfly That Stamped

SAKI: A LIFE OF HECTOR HUGH MUNRO by A.J. Langguth; Simon & Schuster; 366 pages; $14.95

Ancients described the tiny, sweet-singing nightingale as Vox et praeterea nihil (voice and nothing else). For more than half a century that is how it has been, too, with Hector Hugh Munro, the marvelous miniaturist who wrote under the name of Saki. His voices, silly and silky and sometimes tinged with savagery, were familiar and extravagantly praised. One belonged to a popinjay character called Reginald, who discoursed in a series of semiprecious mots: "I hate posterity. It's so fond of having the last word." Another...

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